Growing up, my mother used to tell me snacks were just junk food. However, a study recently published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association might leave her singing a different tune. It found that the more often a person snacks, the higher quality their diet. That is, people who snack have higher intakes of fruit, milk, whole grains and vegetable oils* and lower intakes of sodium.
To conduct the study, the researchers looked at 24-hour dietary recall data from 11,209 adult subjects who participated in the 1999 - 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Their diets were then assessed using a tool from the United States Dietary Association (USDA) called the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) which measures a person’s compliance with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The results showed that people who snack more, even up to four snacks per day, have higher HEI scores than people who do not snack. The study also found that people who snack eat fewer vegetables and less meat, beans, solid fat (which is high in the “bad” saturated fat that increases cholesterol), alcohol and added sugars.
So what does this mean for you as a Frito-Lay fan? You don’t have to feel bad about having your favorite chips as a snack. Just remember, when you choose your snacks, think about two things: 1) always pay attention to serving sizes and control your portions and 2) try to choose snacks that provide important food groups and nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, potassium, calcium and fiber, to help you boost your own personal HEI score.
You can check out the full snacking study here.
*Vegetable oils are considered heart healthy because they are made with less than 20% of the bad saturated fat that raises cholesterol, greater than 80% of the good mono- and polyunsaturated fat that helps to lower cholesterol, and 0g trans fat.